John Wright

In Missouri, once a union becomes the “exclusive representative” for a group of public employees, that union remains in power indefinitely. Another election will not be scheduled unless employees organize against the union and successfully gather enough signatures for a decertification election. Often, employees are punished by the union—in some cases successfully sued for thousands of dollars—for attempting to have a decertification election

Some have suggested fixing this system by requiring government unions to run for re-election periodically. A regular secret-ballot election sounds like a good check on the potential abuses that can occur when a representative body isn’t held accountable to its constituents. But aren’t elections expensive?

In fact, by following the example set by Wisconsin, our state can provide regular elections for its unionized employees at a low cost to incumbent unions and at no cost to taxpayers.

I’ve pointed out before that Wisconsin has revenue-neutral elections for its unionized public employees. In Wisconsin, teachers and state workers periodically decide whether or not to keep their unions. These elections do not cost the state money because they are paid for with a small filing fee—about $1.50 per voter—paid by each government union. The state also contracts with a private company that uses telephone voting to decrease the amount charged to unions, while increasing the convenience of elections.

Lawmakers should carefully consider the costs and benefits of union elections before enacting reforms. However, Wisconsin proves that fiscal cost should not be treated as a serious obstacle to more democratic union representation. By carefully crafting the law to encourage contracting for polling services and by requiring the unions to pay for these elections, Missourians can enjoy greater union accountability without increased cost.

About the Author

John Wright
Policy Analyst

John Wright was a policy analyst focusing on government transparency and labor relations.